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Self-Care Sunday with Allison: The Spirit

A new series intended to support you throughout February by offering practices to help cultivate a deeper love: self-love

Self-Care Sunday with Allison: The Spirit

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Hello friends, and welcome to this final stop in our self-care journey for February. Today, we are discussing the culmination of everything we’ve explored–The Body, The Mind, The Heart–all parts of our essence: The Spirit.

There are many different ways you can define and understand the spirit. Religions, philosophies, and ancient traditions have their use and understanding of the term. But reaching above any organized way of describing the spirit is where, I believe, the true meaning and knowledge of the spirit resides, having nothing to do with anything other than what is our true self.

The spirit is what makes each of us unique. It’s the part of us that is universal, eternal, and made of cosmic energy. It has been proven that human beings are made of stardust. The true self is ineffable and intangible, and yet it is the thing that animates our entire beings and makes us alive. It’s the thing that you hear people talk about when a loved one dies–the experience of the moment when that person takes their last breath and those around them notice that where once a life force beyond the physical existed, it no longer does.

Caring for our spirit is caring for everything–the body, the heart, and the mind. Because those are the vehicles through which our spirit can learn and engage with this human existence. Connecting with our spirit is not about circumventing our human bodies and experience but rather about leaning fully into it, being fully present in our lives, and doing what we need to do in our healing journeys to become not perfect but whole and self-realized.

Whatever your belief system, or lack thereof, I find that the easiest way to connect to this idea of our spirit is to remember that we are nature–not only are we part of the stars, but we are a part of the ecosystem of the planet in the same way that the trees, the plants, the flowers, and all life is. Because of that, we are all connected to something more profound and greater than ourselves.

woman sitting at a desk journalling iStock

Next time you’re outside for a walk, look at the trees around you. No single tree is alike, even when the trees are part of the same family or planted right next to each other. They are unique in their characteristics, how they serve the birds, grass, and animals around them, and how long they will be here.

Can you imagine if all the trees looked identical and had the same appearance and purpose? The planet could not survive without their diversity. We are like trees in that way. We are each here by some confluence of energies coming together to create us into life. We all have different paths to walk and serve in this life. Therein lies the essence of our spirit, of who we are, and if we can connect to that, life suddenly opens up to carry that much more meaning, joy, and fulfillment.

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I have struggled for a long time to find the answer to that question: What exactly am I supposed to be doing with this life? A spiritual teacher once asked this rhetorical question: What if your purpose wasn’t some grand life? What if it was to live on that street, in that neighbourhood, and spread kindness to everyone you met? It’s a concept I’ve come back to so many times as I’ve wondered how to spend my time and energy, and in doing so, I’ve realized that it is that simple; at least, it is for me.

Through meditation, writing, and inner exploration over time, I’ve come to realize that my purpose is to be a mother and a keeper of the peace of my home. Modern feminism and the workplace culture of the last 40 years have complicated this idea for many women; they feel like it’s not “enough” to be a homemaker and a mother, but they have to add to the role of contributing financially.

For me, I realized that this was not how I best served my family. I work because it helps to pay our bills. Still, I don’t prioritize my role at work over that of my role as the keeper of the peace in our home, and for me, making that perspective shift was a game changer in reducing the stress I felt from trying to keep too many balls in the air and not feeling like I was doing what I was meant to be doing here. It gave me clarity.

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I also believe that my purpose, or part of what makes me unique in the world, is that I am meant to go through experiences, learn and heal from them, and then use that embodied experience to help others who come after me. I want to show them the way and shine a light on their path as best as possible.

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For many years, one of my best friends struggled with finding her purpose, which she defined early on as “not having a passion.” This started in our late teens when everyone and their uncle in media and popular culture told us to “find your passion.” She didn’t feel like she had one, so she spent many years feeling somehow missing something everyone else seemed to have.

Once she became a mother of 4 and naturally went through the various experiences of raising her children, helping them learn how to eat, sleep, and cope with big emotions, it was incredible to watch as what began as a necessity of parenting then turned into an interest and a curiosity about how to optimize sleep and health and wellbeing, which eventually led her to become certified as a sleep coach and a child behaviour specialist.

One day on the phone, as we discussed her schooling process to get approved, she said, “I’m just really passionate about this.” And I couldn’t help but laugh and remember the teenage version of her who was so convinced that she was just someone who was destined to go through life without ever having a passion, or as I think it has come to reveal itself, her purpose. It just took some time to get there.

We all have a purpose, or else why would we be here? But that doesn’t mean your purpose will reveal itself the moment you want it to or that it is something huge and bold, like discovering a cure for cancer or becoming the next Taylor Swift.

As I witnessed with my friend and experienced myself, the pressure to discover your purpose–and discover it now–can be so paralyzing that it prevents us from being able to relax and stay open to finding out what it is and allowing that to unfold naturally over time.

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Instead, I’ve found that it’s better to be open, to stay curious, and follow the breadcrumbs. One method of working with the idea of discovering my purpose that I found immensely helpful was based on the work of Jay Shetty, a former monk and spiritual teacher and author, who suggests that you can explore the idea of purpose or use the Sanskrit word dharma, which means eternal purpose or duty, by examining four questions.

woman sitting on the floor journalling iStock

Writing Practice: Four Questions

I found that working with answering these four questions was so helpful in gaining clarity. This is not a one-and-done exercise but something you can return to repeatedly. I find writing the answers down is better than just contemplating them in your head because–as with all expressive writing–when you start to allow that energy to flow out onto the page, you will often be surprised by what comes through. So grab a pen and paper, light a candle, and try it.

  1. What am I passionate about? What am I interested in? And if you don’t know the answer to that, then just start with the root of passion and ask yourself–What am I curious about?
  2. What are you naturally good at? What expertise or skills do you already have that you’re unaware of?
  3. Is there pain in the world that you want to solve? Some people don’t always find their purpose through their passion, but through their pain and how they are called to alleviate that for themselves or others.
  4. Can I get paid for it? It’s a fourth and final consideration because it doesn’t have to be something you get paid for, but it can be.

Other books and resources that I found incredibly helpful in finding your unique path and purpose in the world are Discover Your Dharma by Sahara Rose and Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, both containing exercises you can do to delve further into the idea of purpose.

Meditation

I love this guided meditation from Mindful in Minutes that takes you on a guided journey inward to connect to your spirit, your true self. This is an easy, relaxing way to connect inward to the part of you that knows. All you have to do is let go of your skepticism and disbelief and be open to what comes through. If nothing else, Kelly Smith’s voice is genuinely soothing and peaceful, so it will give you 15 minutes to rest and relax and indulge in a bit of woo woo :)

Yin Yoga For Intuition

This Yin Yoga for Intuition practice from Yoga with Kassandra can be done in less than 30 minutes and comes with guidance and positive affirmations to help you connect with and listen more deeply to your intuition. I find that this practice, and yin in general, is so helpful when I’m feeling out of sorts or have that heavy sense of not knowing what I’m doing or what I need to be doing, in ways both big and small. This is a balm for the nerves and the spirit, and it always brings me back to the truth that the answers to the questions I’m seeking are found within.

woman sitting meditating with her hand on her heart iStock

Nature Grounding & Epsom Salts

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Your spirit is also tied to your energy field. This is, again, more than just a concept relegated to spirituality or yoga. We all have an energetic field within us and around us. Some call it the aura; some call it vibes, and some call it your electromagnetic field.

Whatever word you choose resonates with you, the truth is that your spirit and energetic field can become depleted and even polluted with negativity–either from too much harsh self-talk, from life stressors or from being around the negative energy of others. When I feel that my energy is off, the best medicine I have found is to walk in nature and reconnect to that part of me of something greater.

If the weather is warm, I will practice Earthing, the science of which is well documented in realigning your energy–by pressing my hands against a tree or taking my shoes off to feel my feet on the ground. Afterwards, I’ll come home and have an Epsom salt bath to clear any residual negative energy left. This is such an important part of self-care that often gets neglected–I’m especially guilty of it when life is busy–but I can vouch for the fact that when all else fails, being in nature and then allowing time for yourself to be cleansed by water will get your energy back to balance.

woman having a bath iStock

I often go to a tree in the ravine by my house when I need a good dose of grounding in nature and to connect to what is truly important. This tree is about halfway down the Moore Park Ravine near Evergreen Brickworks and was decorated with an art installation by Judy Rosenberg, a mother and artist. She died in 2009, and her children placed the art there. It is covered in painted pieces of paper and metal, interspersed with this passage from Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return To Love:

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Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone, and as we let our light shine, we unconsciously permit others to do the same.

When I walk by this tree, it is a reminder that all we have–as far as we know–is this one precious life. It is a gift, and we each have a role to shine our unique spirit and energy out in the world and do the best job we can of it. At the end of the day, if we do that, that’s enough.

It’s more than enough.

Thank you so much for going on this journey with me. I hope that at the end of this month, you have found these practices supportive of your trip–to your beautiful body, incredible mind, loving heart, and unique spirit.

My wish for you is that you continue to care for yourself in ways great and small and remember to shine the love that you give to others on yourself as well. The world needs you.

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Be well,

Allison

Author:

Allison McDonald Ace is a YA Certified Yin & 200 HR Vinyasa & Hatha Yoga instructor, published author and expressive writing workshop facilitator. She is passionate about turning her own healing practices and experiences into offerings to help others on their journey.

For more resources or to connect with me, please check out my website at allisonmcdonaldace.com.

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